Monday, November 6, 2017

Working in the Springs

I'm back in Colorado Springs, been here a bit over 2 weeks now (head home on Friday, woo-HOO!) Quite busy this trip, like all the trips here. Just making a dent in this current job, there will likely be a few more 3-week trips before this one is done. The good news is that I have been storing my old mt bike here so when I do come out I have a mt bike to ride. The bad news is that it's not always fit to ride here...but more good news: that isn't very often.

The week we got here it was in the 60's and 70's, then a storm rolled thru and it snowed and got into the 30's for a few days, then back in the 50's, then 30's. It yo-yo's like that a lot. I scraped 2" of snow off the windshield last Tuesday morning (with my hotel room key cuz Avis FORGOT to give me a scraper in my rental this trip). And I didn't lift my windshield wipers up overnight (forgot, SO not used to snow anymore) so they were nicely frozen to the windshield.

I've been riding my bike when I can...a 3 week trip nets me 2 weekends, so I need to make the most of those 4 days...and I did. Last Saturday I did my usual Cheyenne Canyon 1st-weekend-day 'crush my sea-level cardiovascular-system 5 hours in the saddle ride, going from 7500' to over 12,000', covering 42 miles and with over 5000' of climbing. Then on Sunday I had PLANNED to stay a bit lower in the mountains and do a few laps of my favorite trail here: Capt. Jacks. Turns out they started allowing dirt-bikes on this trail since I was here last (Feb 2017). Dirt bikes really can tear up a trail, especially as they come UP it, churning up the trail into mounds of soft stuff. Then the mt bikes come DOWN the trail and suddenly it's a whole different ballgame.

I went down (ie, crashed) pretty hard on that trail last Sunday...going over a root at a moderate speed and as I did my front tire dove into one of those churned up piles of soft stuff, hit something I couldn't see down in the soft stuff and instantly spun sideways, and suddenly I'm going over the bars on a 15% downgrade, and slamming down pretty hard on my left side...really thought I broke some ribs under my left arm for a day or 2 they hurt so bad. Amazingly me left shoulder/elbow and knee came out of it pretty well considering (I believe I might have dislocated my collarbone if it had happened on my right side....I dislocated my left many years back and now it's got a much larger profile and likely healed stronger than the original).

So anyway I was rather timid last week during my after-work rides in Palmer Park (a nice trail system here in town). Funny how that works...I don't crash very often, but when I do it shakes my confidence for a while and I descend even MORE like Grandpa than usual (I'm NOT a fast descender...nor really a fast climber, nor very fast on flats or rollers actually...my only real claim to fame is that I can just ride a decent pace a fairly long time...and by "fairly long time" I mean somewhere between 6 to 8 hours).

But by the time this weekend rolled around it turns out my 'bruised' ribs were feeling much better and it didn't hurt to breath anymore (or only for really deep breaths). And the temperatures were forecast to be up in the 60's on Saturday, HOORAY! However...there was high winds forecast (30mph sustained with higher gusts). BOOO! I drove up to my usual starting point (the High Road parking lot, sits at 7500') Saturday morning, opened the back on my rental mini-van and the ludicrous winds instantly blew a ton of debris into the van. So I closed the door, got back in and drove back down the mountain to the bottom and parked at the Cheyenne Canyon Visitor center (right at 6000'). Figured I'd ride the Columbine trail (which I haven't ridden in YEARS) that goes from the visitor center all the way to Helen Hunt Falls (which is just below the High Road parking lot). I figured staying lower on the mountain and in the trees (mostly) would still allow me to ride, AND keep me out of MOST of the horrible winds. And I was mostly right...I was able to ride, it wasn't really cold at all, and the winds ranged from near zero to gusting strong enough at any given moment to push me up a steep climb or nearly throw me off the trail a dozen or more times. It was crazy but still a good ride.

The winds let up some as the afternoon wore on but the damage was done and I only ended up riding a bit over 3 hours...the wind really takes it out of you. But that's ok...the forecast for Sunday was better...much lighter winds (around 10-15mph) tho cooler...high around 56. So yesterday I did the ride I was HOPING to do on Saturday: Climb all the way back to Mt Baldy road and then take trail 667 down into Jones park and finally tie it back to Buckhorn and finally back to Columbine and back to my car. I did all that, but with the STUPID time-change on Saturday night, by the time I was descending Columbine it was coming up on 3:30pm and was already deep in the shadows and cooling off FAST. I was QUITE chilled when I got to the bottom, but it was a good day, and netted me almost 6 hours in the saddle, over 34 miles, and over 5200' of climbing (high point of right about 10,100'). Not too shabby for a sea-level guy if I do say so myself!

And so...I have some pictures that I took during my 2 weeks of riding here...it IS a really beautiful place, and I could honestly live here one day if the situation ever arose that it became practical. It's a big city with a TON of stuff to do, and it has this enormous mountain range on it's west side including Pikes Peak (over 14,000'). The mountains are choked with roads, trails, streams and lakes, and are just chock full of adventure for any outsider-type person. Enough on that...here are some pictures!

 A blurry shot taken thru my windshield heading west towards the Springs, looking at the enormous mountain range just west of town. The highest bump on the right is Pikes Peak.


On Gold Camp Road at about 8400', coming up pretty close to the 1st open tunnel (the 1st tunnel is collapsed and you go over it). There USED to be a narrow gauge railroad here long ago but it was torn out and now there is almost 8.5 miles of this dirt road off limits to cars. They do allow dirt bikes tho.


The 2nd tunnel I ride thru.  This one turns to the right once inside and is pretty 
awesome and shorter than the 1st one.


 Looking down on the city from Gold Camp Rd, probably about 9000' here.



Looking across at the backside of Cheyenne Mountain. You can barely see a bunch of antennas on the ridge directly in the middle of the picture...those are right on top of  'the mountain'. No idea what the base is used for these days but it's still there. It USED to be the side of NORAD (North American Air Defense)...remember the movie War Games with Matthew Broderick? In that movie they were inside saving the world from Joshua (the computer).




Now I'm on Old Stage Rd (Gold Camp Rd joins it) and vehicles are allowed here. In this picture the road goes around a GIGANTIC rock. It's literally the biggest rock I think I've ever seen. It goes up quite a ways beyond the scope of this picture.


 Now I'm over 11,000' and climbing towards Mt Baldy. There is a slash across the peak in the middle of the picture...that's the road I will be on in an another half hour or so that takes me around the right side of the peak via a saddle.


 A slightly different shot of Mt Baldy (the center hump, it's actually higher than the bump to the left which is just closer). 


 Here I'm on that slash from the prior picture, climbing up towards the saddle. The trees are really starting to thin out here, about 11,500'. The tree line is around 11,800 or so here on this mountain.


 Past the saddle and now looking up at the actual Mt Baldy peak from the backside. There is an electronics tower you can see on the right side, it's actually higher than the part in the middle (again, it's just closer). You can see the road switchbacking up. This road is pretty horrible, all soft stuff. AND I'm just shy of 12,000' here...just a bit up the road I cross that altitude, and the peak is about 12,300 or so I think.



This is a survival barrel. It's there in case you need to seek refuge during a storm, and you can wait it out and/or rescue. We had these when I was in Adak Alaska a lifetime ago...and I stayed in one for a few days when we were trapped by weather. It was stocked with coal, a stove, and the old-style military "C" rats (rations).

 Back on the road from the saddle and heading down, looking on Colorado Springs a MILE below..hoo-YA!




This is a shot of the Columbine trail. It's rather steep here and VERY soft and gravelly. Impossible to climb, and pretty exciting (as in terrifying) to descend. Thankfully there's only a small stretch like this, the rest of the 4 mile climb is pretty 'climbable'.


Looking down on the road to Helen Hunt Falls (and past that the High Road parking lot) from the Columbine trail. NICE!


Looking at the Springs from the Columbine trail. This was taken on Saturday, and it's hard to tell but to the right of the picture (in the city below) there is a giant dust-cloud from the insane winds we had that day. Been coming here for a decade or so and that's the worst wind-storm I've seen.

And finally, Helen Hunt Falls. Not really much but it draws a lot of people up the canyon to see it.

That's all I have for pics this trip. I'm tired, and it's about time to go HOME (yay) And then next Wednesday we fly to Hawaii (HOORAY!!!) for 2 weeks! We will be on Oahu the first few days (Honolulu, Waikiki Beach) and then we fly to Kona HI (the Big Island...you know, the one with the volcano going off the last 30 years?) for a week, then back to Oahu the last few days. A nice way to spend Thanksgiving for SURE!

OK. I'm about out of here. I know it's big-time football season, but I have to tell you I've taken a knee (HA HA!) to the NFL this year. Not watching OR keeping track of any particular team, or supporting them in ANY WAY. Yep. If the entire league can turn a blind eye to their players dissing every veteran in the history of this country, then I (and hopefully MANY MANY OTHERS) will turn a blind eye to their sport. And maybe one day it will hit them where it counts: in the pocketbook, and many MORE of them will find them wishing a team would hire them (talk to Kapernick). I personally think they SHOULD be able to be fired. I would be fired if I tried to protest anything while I'm at work in MY job...why should they be different? They're in uniform at the stadium, and they're on the clock. Doing their JOB. And protesting the National Anthem of THIS country. They are PRO NFL Players, they could call a press conference pretty much any time, or give away half their ludicrous pay to help their cause, or any of 1000 other different ways to make their protest WITHOUT taking a knee (or not coming out of the locker room, same diff to me) for the National Anthem. As a retired Navy guy I find this SO offensive that I hope the entire league folds if they (the NFL) continue to allow this. Seriously. I can live without it. But hey, that's just MY opinion. And I'm entitled to it, as everybody else is theirs.

OK..sorry to get political there...but this protest thing really burns my butt!

But I will still watch college ball...and boy did I have a good weekend...OSU lost, Penn State lost, and Michigan WON (they are almost back in the hunt for a Big 10 title!) OSU plays Wisconsin this weekend...Big Blue plays them the next. GO BLUE!!

And with that I will wrap up this post. Next post will be with pictures from Hawaii.

Quick update: I tried to post these to Instagram and Facebook, but only the 1 pic made it...so anyway, here's my "all you can eat shrimp" @ Joes Crab Shack, CO Springs pics...I may not be able to go toe to toe with the 'big boys' but I think I'm definitely a contender in my weight class


 This is the 'before' shot. 


And this is what it looked like when I finally called it quits. Those are all 'peel and eat' shells, and the little trays on the right are what they bring each batch in. I stopped w/ the coconut and crispy shrimp after the first few batches and stuck w/ the steamed. MMMMM!

Later gaters!

Cheers!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The last of the Three Musketeers

I'm very sad to report that last Monday afternoon at 3:30pm we had our beloved PG put down. Her health had been failing, as was her remaining back leg, and we were finally forced with the terrible realization that she wasn't getting better and it was 'time'.


PG's actual name was Princess Gizmo. She was a native Hawaiian, born on the island of Oahu in December of 2001. I was at sea when we (and by 'we' I mean Jeannie) finally moved from our fleabag rental apartment into our newly purchased condo. Not long after that Jeannie realized that being alone sucked, so she went down to the Honolulu Humane Society and picked out our little darling. She'd only had PG a few days when my ship pulled in unexpectedly and I surprised her (ON  Valentines Day). And then she surprised ME with our very first little fur-baby! Jeannie wanted to name her "Princess" and I thought she looked more like Gizmo (from the movie Gremlins)...her ears were pretty big for the size of her. We compromised and she became Princess Gizmo, but we started calling her PG pretty much right away.

I figure I'll just stop narrating too much and finish this with pictures from beginning to end. Know that this post is WAY long, and likely only Jeannie and I have any real interest in it...I think it was very theraputic for me to make it...remembering all the good times we had. I know that I teared up a LOT in the making of this. So here we go on my memorial tribute to PG.

 Sitting in my lap at the computer in the Hawaii condo. Just LOOK AT THOSE EARS!  She was only bout 2 1/2 months old here, having been with us maybe a week.

In the kitchen with Jeannie....look at how tiny she is...she walks under the open-dishwasher!

Playing with one of my socks in her bed

Who needs a paper shredder when you've got PG?

On a jungle hike

 Our little hiker was a real tough-girl (here she's growling at a lizard or something)

 The face of pure mischief

 Growing up fast, too big for her bed all of a sudden!

 Going for a drive in Hawaii in my old Monte Carlo SS
Playing in the sand and surf at Hickam Beach, Oahu.

9/11/02, driving to our new home in Santa Maria after leaving Hawaii (yes, we flew out on the one-year-anniversary of the Twin Towers coming down). We'd shipped Jeannie's car a month before we left, and mine the day before. That way her car was waiting in Long Beach so we'd have a car waiting for us. We took a shuttle from LAX to Long Beach to get the car, then did the 3 to 4 hour drive north to our new home. PG taking it all in stride, sleeping after her terrifying 5 hour airplane ride in a crate.

She's all grown up now, in the new house (with no furniture)! Hard to see in this picture but I'm painting the inside...you can see I've rolled the walls down to about a foot off the carpet, and I have a drop cloth taped on the outer edge of the carpet to the wall.

 Sweet Pea comes into our family in May 2003. They got along pretty great right from the start.

Christmas 2003


Hiking in the hills outside of Santa Maria with PG and Sweet Pea


Halloween 2004, PG is a hot dog (Jeannie bought this costume). Sweet Pea was a pumpkin this year (also store bought outfit) but wasn't in this picture, she HATED Halloween and the attention. PG always LOVED Halloween...she'd stand by the door so all the kids could pet her.

Christmas 2004

Halloween 2005, Sweet Pea is now a hamburger to PG's Hot dog. I made the hamburger outfit.
Sweet Pea wasn't impressed at ALL.

Sydney comes into our family, May 2006.

Halloween 2006. I made Sydney's french fry outfit to go along with the burger.

Christmas 2006

Going to the beach, April 2007 (still have my 85 Monte Carlo SS w/ the Hawaii seat-covers). The babies LOVED to go in the car. We'd usually stop by a Burger King on the way home and they'd each get a Junior Whopper (just burger and bun) as a treat.

Here they are AT the beach. Are these some happy fur-babies or WHAT!
Gosh they LOVED the beach. In this picture Sydney is all wet as she had jumped into the surf after a seal (I had to run into the surf to get her before the waves took her out).

Halloween 2007, PG now has a Daddy costume too. I called them Fast Food! (VERY FAST)

Christmas 2007

Halloween 2008, the Three Musketeers (these were also Daddy-made costumes). PG was in her heyday...she just LOVED the attention she got! Look at her preening over there!

Christmas 2009

Happy New Year 2010, formal party dress

 At the beach June 2010

The pack just LOVED the beach!

Posing for the Christmas card picture, Dec 2010

PG after a cancer-lump removal surgery, September 2011

Daddy n the kids snoozing (or at least Daddy was). They were all good snugglers.

 Tiz the season, PG in her Holiday jingle-collar

Christmas, 2011

Happy PG helping Daddy in the back yard on a Sunday, September 2012. The day after this picture her left rear leg was swollen beyond belief (it was rock hard, so swollen the knee wouldn't bend). We took her to the vet and they did everything they could, thought maybe it was a spider bite or something. By Friday we took her back to the vet as it wasn't better. That's when the vet noticed she had no feeling below the knee, and this was serious. So we drove her to Ventura to the VMSG (Veterinary Medical Surgical Group) where they have full-on hospital type care including ER. They suspected a bleeding tumor in the thigh, and by the next morning it was confirmed and they did surgery, removing the tumor and saving her leg.

After the cancer removal surgery, October 2012. The cancer biopsy said it was a Myxosarcoma (very aggressive cancer). The surgeon said she now wished she had taken the leg, as with this particular type of cancer there was no way to take enough 'margin' to get it all, and that it WOULD be back.

Feb 2013 (the brace on the lower-leg/foot is due to the nerve damage from the cancer, she still had no feeling below the knee and would break her foot/toes if not braced. The nerve is permanently damaged and the feeling won't be coming back). We were afraid the cancer could return at any time, and we were trying holistic treatments hoping to keep the cancer at bay.

Sadly the cancer had returned, so we had 2 choices: take the leg or put her down. She was 11 years old and full of life, so we chose life. Here she's in the loving care of Mommy and Daddy after her surgery, March 2013, minus 1 cancerous back leg.
1 month after leg-amputation surgery and she's playing at the park. Dogs are AMAZING! She'd had the foot/leg brace on for over 4months, so not having the brace and a no-feeling leg was probably better for her. She did just FINE with only 3 legs (she's still the only one who can jump up on all the furniture)!

3 legs, still in charge and full of life, May 2013

"No, seriously, where's the 3rd one? I'm pretty sure I can get them ALL in my mouth at the same time". PG always did try to hog ALL the toys we brought home. Being as she was the Alpha, nobody could take them from her...she had to drop them and walk away (which she only did when she was bored with teasing her sisters).

"Yeah, we LIKE hanging out on the bed while Mama sleeps. 
Don't you have something else to do besides take pictures?" PG could still jump up on the bed with only 1 back leg, the other 2 needed to use the ramp. It truly didn't slow her down much.

Christmas, 2013

PG was always a feisty little thing...and loved sleeping in Daddy's spot after he got up. Here she shares my spot with Sydney.

At the park, August 2014. Sydney was having her decline in motor-control and by this point and couldn't walk very good, so I'd made her a wagon to pull her to the park so she could play with her sisters in the lush grass.

PG always LOVED the park. Here she's all tuckered out after running and smelling everywhere. 

Here I am heading to the park with THE PACK. Syd was great in the wagon, 
and PG absolutely HAD to be in the lead.

Halloween, 2014, PG and Syd at the door with me. Syd couldn't stand up much but she'd get to the door and lay down right where the kids could reach over the fence and pet her. PG was right there in the middle of the attention. I'd wanted to make the babies new costumes but now Syd was pretty past that...I was going to make them pirates, with PG as their captain (with a wooden leg). But alas, that never happened. I'll always be sad about missing that opportunity. PG would have LOVED it!

December 2014, Happy Holidays from the babies. Sophie is new to the pack, PG is still in charge.

January 2015, PG playing with Sophie. PG's idea of playing was to have a toy somebody else wanted, and then teasing them with it, egging them on to TRY to take it, but not really wanting them to actually take it.
Now the trip to the park involved FOUR fur-babies, and PG was STILL in charge! She just LOVED being in charge!

April 2015. Sadly this is the last picture of all four babies as we lost Sydney on Earth day.

Merry Christmas, 2015. PG is still in charge and is definitely spoiled rotten!

May 2016, PG loves HER couch. We lost Sweet Pea this month, and now PG now only has Sophie to be in charge of (Sweet Pea was always PG's best friend, and we think she really missed her).

August 2016, Sophie turns 2 years old. Here PG is inspecting the birthday cake.

PG tolerated Sophie but wasn't much interested in playing any more (she's over 15 years old). And Sophie was still a puppy and wanted nothing more than to PLAY.

April 2017, PG is still the queen of the roost and the pack is now THREE again with the addition of Abbey. Puppy or not, nobody messes with the Queen's food. 

Happy Easter, 2017. Gosh this seems like SO long ago! PG really took a quick turn for the worst, she was fine at Easter!

Keeping Abbey in line was a full time job for the Queen of all she surveys.


She tolerated Abbey but wasn't really impressed with the newcomer. And Abbey wanted nothing more than to be friends with PG. And to play whenever she wasn't sleeping.

July 2017, watching the Tour with Daddy. Jeannie was back east on vacation so it was Tour BLISS every single day!
August 2017, starting to notice PG is losing weight (her ribs are really showing, as are her hip bones). Her somewhat sudden decline is happening under right our noses.

Monday October 2nd. This is a selfie I took of us at the park about an hour before her 'time' .
I had carried her to the park as she couldn't walk that far because her rear leg was very weak. 

The last picture of PG. I think she knew it was time. Usually she hops around smelling everything, seeing what other dogs had been there, etc. Today she just stood there looking tired. After this I carried her home and we just sat in the front yard for a while until it was time for her last car ride.

 She was such a wonderful addition to our family, and she was our first fur-baby. We miss her terribly, and the house seems so empty without her. But she gave us almost 16 wonderful years, and we will always be grateful for that.

Rest in peace our dear little girl. You gave us so much joy and love, and we are that much better for it. We miss you more than words can possibly say.

Good by PG. You will live in our hearts forever.